THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE U23 MEDALISTS AT THE 2008 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

The year Nino won his second U23 World Championship title

(L. to R.) Burry Stander, Nino Schurter, and Mathias Flückiger shared the podium after the U23 XC race at the 2008 World Championships. 

Val di Sole, Italy: Switzerland’s Nino Schurter took his second U23 XC World Championship. South Africa’s Burry Stander placed second, and Switzerland’s Mathias Flückiger finished third.

Two months later, Nino would take the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, beating Swiss teammate Christoph Sauser—a that year’s reigning Elite Men’s XC World Champion—by two seconds. Nino would go on to win a silver medal at the Olympics in 2012, and gold in 2016. He’d also go on to win a total 10 Elite Men’s XC World Championships and 9 overall Elite Men’s World Cup XCO titles by the end of 2023.

BURRY STANDER’S CAREER CAME TO A TRAGIC END

Burry Stander would go on to place 15th in the 2008 Olympics. The next year, he’d win the 2009 U23 XC World Championship. Then, in 2011 and 2012, he’d win the Absa Cape Epic, riding with teammate Christoph Sauser.

In 2013, Burry Stander was hit and killed by a taxibus while finishing up a training ride in South Africa. The driver was convicted of culpable homicide and sentenced to three years in prison, according to Wikipedia.

MATHIAS FLUCKIGER’S HIGHEST HIGHS AND LOWEST LOWS

Mathias Flückiger would go on to win the U23 title at the 2010 World Championships. At the height of his career in the Elite Men’s ranks, he placed second in both the 2020 and 2021 World Championships and took the silver medal in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. In June of 2022, he tested positive for the steroid Zeranol and was provisionally suspended from racing for 120 days.

The Canadian cycling news site, cyclingmagzine.ca,  shared the following report about Flückiger’s positive drug test:

“Swiss mountain bike star Mathias Flückiger has returned a positive doping test. The news arrived one week before 2022 world championships, and on the eve of European continental championships. Flückiger was immediately removed from the Swiss team at European champs and asked to leave the team hotel.

“The 33-year-old’s positive test reportedly comes from post-race screening at Swiss XCO national championships back on June 5, according to Wielerflits.nl . The Swiss anti-doping agency informed the Thömus-Maxon rider of his positive result on Thursday afternoon.

“Flückiger returned the positive test for the banned substance Zeranol. It is an anabolic steroid used in North America for farming, usually poultry [sic], to promote animal growth. [Editor’s note: According to the research of Mountain Bike Action senior editor John Ker, Zeranol is not used for poultry production, but is used in raising cattle, to increase meat production.]

“The Swiss rider has not yet given a public response to the doping positive. His B sample has not yet been tested.

“Flückiger had a stellar 2021 season, finishing second at the Olympics behind Tom Pidcock and second at world championships behind Nino Schurter. He also won the World Cup overall title. Flückiger’s 2022 season has been rockier. The rivalry with Nino Schurter boiled over into a late-race crash at home during Lenzerheide World Cup. The Swiss rider then withdrew from the two North American World Cup rounds after contracting COVID during the Andorra race weekend.

“If Flückiger’s positive test is confirmed, it will be the first high-profile doping case in cross country mountain biking in recent years,” the Canadian Cycling Magazine concluded.

After the investigation was concluded in December 2022, Fluckiger’s ban was lifted and he was allowed to resume racing. None of the other samples showed any evidence of his having used Zeranol.

Zeranol is commonly used in the U.S. to speed the development of cattle, but Zeranol is banned in European cattle production. The U.S. had been prevented from exporting its beef to Europe up until 2019, when changes were made in the U.S.-European trade laws to allow U.S. cattle producers to distribute their beef products to Europe.

“It’s been the worst five months of my life,” Fluckiger said after his ban was lifted.

At that time, the website en.brujulabike.com reported:
“The Swiss Olympic Disciplinary Committee has just lifted the provisional suspension imposed on Mathias Fluckiger last August for samples taken in June. The committee has ruled that it cannot be considered a positive result for doping due to the minimal amounts of doping found.

“Swiss Olympic Disciplinary Committee says Mathias Flueckiger did not test positive for doping and will compete again in 2023.

“On August 18th, just the morning before the European Championships, it was announced that Mathias Fluckiger had been suspended by his team and national team after an adverse test result at the Swiss Championships on June 5th. This marked the beginning of what Fluckiger considers to be one of the worst periods of his life.

“The positive test was for Zeranol, an anabolic substance of veterinary origin, but the amount was so minimal that it could only be discovered by a special laboratory. From the beginning, the cyclist maintained that he was innocent and that the result should never have been considered positive under current anti-doping rules and the margins of error that are maintained for not counting false positives.

“After appealing the result to the Swiss Olympic Disciplinary Committee with a detailed dossier, the Committee has ruled in favour of Mathias Fluckiger and has lifted the provisional suspension.

“Thus, the Disciplinary Chamber decided to no longer consider Zeranol’s test result as a positive sample. Therefore, the provisional suspension pronounced by Swiss Sports Integrity on August 18th is lifted after 120 days.

“I’ve never doped. The decision of the Disciplinary Chamber is an extremely great relief for me. It was the worst five months of my life. After months of waiting, which was extremely stressful, I am now again looking to the future with optimism. In terms of sport, I’m more motivated than ever and I’m working on my comeback every day,” said a totally happy Flückiger.

“The case is not yet definitively resolved

“But this good news does not close the case as it is now back to the Swiss Sport Integrity (SSI) agency, which will have the final word. This is the same agency that imposed the provisional suspension after an abnormal result and will now have to examine the ruling of the Disciplinary Chamber together with the rest of the information for its final response.”

Switzerland’s Chrisoph Sauser took the Elite Men’s XC title at the 2008 World Championship, with Swiss teammate Nino Schurter winning the U23 title. Two months later, Nino would edge out Sauser for third place at the 2008 Olympics. (Photo: John Ker/Mountain Bike Action) 

 

 

 

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